Sunday, 25 September 2016

An Exciting Time for Wendy's Writing Now!

A few days ago was the start of Autumn. Having been a teacher in my previous life, I've always thought of the Autumn term as being a time of change. It's the same now that I'm a writer. I consider September to be a fresh start without the distraction of holidays (yes, I know I've had one or two), grandkiddy duties and feeling guilty about being inside writing when the weather is nice. Like other writers, I definitely get less done in the summer.

It's not only my magazine writing that's suffered during the summer, I've not been blogging as consistently as in the past. Neither have I been keeping up with social media as I should. 

Now that Autumn is here, I need to try to get back to writing consistently, settle down to a routine and not allow my mind to wander to other things. I also need to get writing buddy, Tracy, to give me a stern talking to!

I've realised that, in order to kick start my writing, I need to devote more of my time to writing projects. I love blogging but it can be time consuming so, for the months of October and November, I am handing my blog over to some wonderful guests. You are certainly in for a treat! Some of the authors will be known to many of you but I also have some lesser known writers who I am very excited to feature. To give you a taster, next week's guest has the most amazing pets (I won't spoil it for you now but I can promise you some interesting photos).

When I posted that I was opening up these two months to guest spots, I was so inundated with requests that I had to turn people down (I'm so sorry if you were one of them). From the comments left, it seems that Wendy's Writing Now is seen as a great platform for guest authors and for that I feel humbled (but also sad that I can't accommodate everyone). Someone said they'd been wanting to join the 'hall of fame' at the side of my blog for a long while but, up until now, had been to shy to ask. I feel very honoured.

You won't have got rid of me entirely though. I shall be popping in during these two months with my own news - it just won't be every week.

In the meantime, here is my latest story in The People's Friend Magazine. Its called, The Anniversary Dinner and was written for a friend of mine.

Monday, 19 September 2016

A Sleepy Island, a Boat and a Cavorting Couple!

Lots of pictures and not many words in this post today as we've been away again - this time to the Greek island of Ithaca (or Ithaka). It was an island we hadn't been to before and, as usual, we were smitten.

The island is small and you reach it by ferry from Kefalonia. With only one crossing each afternoon, and a flight that had been delayed by half an hour, our drive to the other side of the island to catch the ferry was an interesting experience! Luckily we just manage to get there in time.

This year, instead of using a travel firm, we decided to go it alone and try airbnb. We certainly weren't disappointed as for the same price as a package, we ended up with a three bedroom house with plunge pool and a view to die for! This was the view from our extremely large veranda.

Ithaca is an island you only go to if you want total rest and relaxation. It's a beautiful but sleepy place with only a handful of towns: Vathy, the capital, the little beach resort of Frikes and the exquisite harbour town of Kioni where we stayed - a popular place with the boating set. Late each day the flotillas would moor up in the harbour and it was immensely entertaining, at the end of an evening, to watch the well dressed couples take off their smart shoes and clamber aboard their (rather precarious looking) rubber dinghies to get back to their yachts. 

The beaches were pretty pebbled coves (only two on the island had sunbeds and sunshades) and the water was crystal clear. Being September, the season was beginning to wind down and we had most beaches almost to ourselves... except for this one! I've never shared a beach with a goat before.

As you can see, we hired a little boat and came across this beautiful Robinson Crusoe beach. It was so romantic with just a shipwrecked old boat on it. A young couple who swam out from their yacht a few hours later obviously thought so too. When they started stripping off their clothes, we though it was time to make our presence clear before things got awkward!

While we were away, I took the opportunity of doing some reading. I deliberately turned my back on the psychological thrillers I've been reading recently as they've all become a bit samey. Instead, I took a trip down memory lane and read a Rosamund Pilcher. It was an enjoyable beach read with beautiful Cornish scenery but rather dated. The other book I read was Elizabeth is Missing. This has gone into my top 10 best reads - what a great book.

I'm home now and ready for an Autumn of writing but I have to say that in my mind, I'm already planning next year's Greek holiday!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Holidays as Inspiration for Your Stories

This has been a good week for magazine stories. I have two in The People's Friend Weekly (very unusual as they don't often feature a writer more than once unless it's in the Special) and one in Take a Break Fiction Feast.

It was as I was reading them again that it occurred to me that all three had been written following a holiday. Two from this year and one a while ago.

My first story in The Friend is called 'Welcome to Paradise' and I'll tell you a little about how this one came about. In May this year, my husband and I went on a fantastic holiday to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. For the second part of the holiday, we stayed in the beautiful village of Positano.

When we arrived at the beach around the headland, we were greeted by a young man from the local bar. 'Welcome to Paradise!' he said. We thought that was rather lovely and it amused us when we heard him say the same thing to everyone. If a group of pretty girls came down to the beach, he was extra attentive. I just knew I had to write a story about him as soon as I got back. I sent the story along with the photo above to my editor who bought it. This is the lovely illustration that they put with it - rather arty don't you think!

My second story in The People's Friend is called 'A Walk on the Fells'. The original title was The Coffin Stone which was much more interesting I think - maybe they didn't like the word 'coffin'. I wrote it after I came back form The Lake District in April. It is absolutely one of my favourite places in England to holiday and I have written (and have had published) a story every time I've come home from a visit. This is my fourth Lake District story for The Friend and I've had one published in Fiction Feast too.

Fiction editor, Shirley Blair, asked if I would tell the readers the inspiration behind my story and here it is. Have any of you ever walked the 'coffin route?'

My final story this week is called 'Don't Rock the Boat' - originally titled, 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' (never be precious about your titles). It was one of my first stories and was written after my first canal boat holiday in 2012. It didn't sell then so I put it away in a drawer, revamped it and resent it four years later. I've had three more canal boat holidays since then.

I'm off to the Greek island of Ithaka soon... I feel another Greek story coming on!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Ever Built a Tree House? The inspiration behind my People's Friend Story

When my husband was a boy, he loved building things: dens, camps... you name it. His garden had a swing and a small lawn where he used to camp out on summer days but what it didn't have was a tree house and that was because it didn't have a tree.

Luckily for him, and his like-minded friends, at the end of the road was a wood and this was where they would go to play. Dens and camps were dutifully constructed and so too was a tree house, right in the arms of a chestnut tree.

I asked him what they used to build this house with its bird's eye view and he just said, "Oh, you know - old packing cases and stuff that was lying about."

Actually, I didn't know. Never having had a head for heights, a tree house was not something I'd ever wanted or considered building. I was happy playing with my Tressy and Cindy dolls on the safety of my lawn.

When my own girls were little, their father built them a Wendy House. It was just like having a tree house except it was not in a tree. I'd sit inside it with them and read them stories (something I'd never have been able to do if the house had been built in the boughs of the apple tree next to it).

This must all have been in my mind when I wrote my story, Magic Moments, which is published in the latest People's Friend Special. It's about a boy whose father builds him a tree house. It's his place of refuge - especially in the days after his father death. It's only when he invites a special someone to join him for tea in his special place in the treetops that his family can start to heal.

When I think about it, trees must be a thing of mine as I've written two other stories, The Willow Tree, and Up a Tree which have both been published in The Friend (under other titles). Another is with them at the moment!

Have trees featured in your own childhood at all?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Merry Christmas! Writing Seasonal Stories

It's that time of year again. You know how it is - you're sitting in the garden with the sun blazing down, trying to shield your computer from the glare. You're sipping a cool drink but, on the screen, the words are all snowflakes, sleigh bells and Christmas presents.

Yes... it's the curse of the seasonal story!

Every year, since starting writing in 2012, I've had Christmas stories published in magazines (my record is three in one issue of Take a Break Fiction Feast) and, last week, I sold my first for 2016 to The People's Friend... yippee! 

It made me think it might be a good time to write a short post for anyone thinking of writing seasonal stories.

A couple of months ago, Simon Whaley interviewed me for an article in the July issue of Writing Magazine. The subject was time sensitivity when writing for magazines - something I know a lot about. Some of you might have read it but, for those who didn't, I thought I'd share my answers to the questions Simon asked me.

How far in advance do you write seasonal stories (Christmas, Easter, Halloween)? How easy or difficult do you find this?

The earlier the better. I write my Christmas stories round about June/July and try to have them submitted before August at the latest. I usually send a few stories – that way any that don’t sell can be resubmitted elsewhere. It’s also worth remembering that if your submission arrives too late, magazines such as The People’s Friend will often hold them over until the following Christmas. On several occasions I have had a Christmas story in the magazine that was written and subbed the previous year but missed the boat.

What steps do you take to get you in the seasonal mood, or to inspire you to make appropriate seasonal references? For example, I've heard some writers playing Christmas music in May as they write their festive prose! do you do anything similar, such as look at photos, or look for seasonal words or phrases to drop into your story?

None at all. Once I start writing, I get so immersed in my stories that even if it is blazing hot sun outside, in my head it is snowing!

How important is the season to stories? Can setting a story in a specific season benefit or harm it?

The thing to take into account when writing a story around a particular seasonal celebration, such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day, is that the magazines will be receiving hundreds of stories on the same subject. These stories will only be published in one or maybe two issues around that time and that reduces the number of stories that will be accepted. General seasonal ones (winter or summer) are better as you have a window of several months but non-seasonal stories will fit in anywhere and at any time and you won’t be directly competing with other writers (including the magazines’ regulars).

When do you submit seasonal stories? Does this vary between markets? And if a seasonal story is rejected (heaven forbid!) do you hold on to it to submit nearer the time to another market, or do you rewrite it completely in a different season?

I try to submit seasonal stories at least four months ahead but, having said that, I have sent last minute stories and had them accepted and published very quickly. If a seasonal story is rejected, it is resubmitted elsewhere, or saved for the next year. I have never rewritten a story in a different season but I have changed a valentine story into an anniversary one when I ran out of submission time.

Is there anything else you'd like to say on this subject?

Don’t force a seasonal story. If you don’t feel like writing Christmas stories in summer or holiday romances when it’s snowing, then don’t. Write something general that can be read at any time. Failing that, write your Christmas stories in the winter and hold on to them for a few months before submitting for the following Christmas.

I hope that's been helpful to anyone thinking of writing seasonal stories. Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Happy 4th Birthday Wendy's Writing Now!

Today, my blog, Wendy's Writing Now, celebrates it's 4th birthday. I can't believe how quickly those four years have gone by.

I started writing my blog after I sold my first story to a magazine (Take a Break Fiction Feast). This was quickly followed by one to The People's Friend and Woman's Weekly.

Since then, I have sold 175 stories, several articles, two serials, published two collections of my magazine stories, written my first novel and have accepted an offer of representation by the lovely Eve White Agency. 

To say I am overwhelmed and extremely grateful to everyone who has supported me through this exciting time is an understatement.

My blog started small (I think I had five pageviews that first week) but, with a little nurturing, has grown nicely until last week it passed the 200,000 pageview mark.This is due, in no small part, to the lovely guests who have either written posts for me or agreed to be interviewed. Some, like Sam Tonge, have even come back for more... three times in fact!

The nice thing is that my guests have come from all genres of writing. I've already mentioned rom-com writer, Sam Tonge, but I have also had guest posts from fabulous psychological thriller writers such as Debbie Howells, historical fiction writers such as Elaine Everest, award winning short story writers such as Tracy Fells and guests who can help us on our writing paths such as social media manager Anita Chapman (Neetsmarketing), Becca Puglisi (Writers Helping Writers) proofreader Julia Gibbs and People's Friend Fiction Editor, Shirley Blair.

Of course this is just a taster - I'd love to mention everyone who has been my guest but there's not enough space. Why not take a look at the full guest list on the side bar to the right?

I'm fully aware that a blog would be nothing without its readers and I'm grateful to each and every one of you who reads my posts. Being left a comment is a bonus and makes the whole blog-writing process seem worthwhile (I really do read and appreciate every single one of them).

Writing a blog can be time-consuming but I've never regretted starting it. I have made many lovey online friends through Wendy's writing Now and these supportive people have been with me almost since day one: Tracy Fells, Patsy Collins, Teresa Ashby, Rosemary Gemmell and Helen Yendall. Why don't you have a look at their lovely blogs too.

All that's left now is to say Happy Birthday Wendy's Writing Now and I look forward to sharing another blog year with you.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Writing a Debut Novel - Guest Post Lynda Stacey

What a treat to have another lovely guest on my blog. This week it's Lynda Stacey's turn. Lynda is a member of the RNA and her debut novel, 'House of Secrets' has recently been published by Choc Lit. I thought it would be nice to catch up with her to ask a few questions about this exciting time in her writing career.

What were you like at school? Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes. I can't really ever remember not making up stories. I wrote as a child, and even asked my parents for a Lilliput Typewriter when I was 14. I made a big announcement that I was going to be an author and had every intention of doing just that. It only took me another 30 years, to actually get on with it.

Do you have a special time of day when you like to write?
I really like to write in a morning. I love to get up before the rest of the house (which means my husband) and I like to write while my mind is fresh and without influence of the rest of the day. I do however, due to working full time, end up writing in the evenings more often than not.

Did being in the RNA New Writers’ Scheme help you on your road to publication?
Most definitely, I'd advise everyone who ever decided that they'd like to write romance to join the RNA (Romantic Novelist Association) they have the best support system that I've ever known. The moment you join, you feel as though you've suddenly inherited around 250 siblings, all of whom want to cheer you on when things are going well and kick you up the backside when you need it. I'd honestly say that if I hadn't joined the NWS, I'd probably still be dreaming of becoming an author, and not doing anything about it. Also, the annual critique service is invaluable. It gives you the mind-set to write and submit… oh… and to wait for the response.

What about that Choc Lit and Wholestory Audiobooks Search for a Star competition? Can you tell my readers about the moment you heard you’d won?
I was at work when the email dropped in. It's a good job that my office is private, because I didn't know whether to scream, cry or laugh. Every single emotion went through me and I immediately rang my husband, who'd literally just left the office for the day. He was the first person that I had to tell and the day after, he took me shopping and bought me a half carat diamond ring, by way of celebration.

Your novel, House of Secrets, is set in a country house hotel. Is it based on a real hotel?
Yes. Wrea Head Hall is a real hotel, with real owners, staff and the most amazing rooms where you can stay. I'd happily and without reservation advise everyone to go and stay there. The food is amazing and because the hotel only has 22 rooms, you feel as though you've gone to your own country house for the weekend. The staff are fantastic and can't do enough for you.

Give us an insight into your main character. What do they do that will make the reader want to go on the journey with them?
Madeleine is a young single mother. She’s been widowed just prior to the birth of her daughter and has struggled to give Poppy the best start in life, and I honestly feel that a lot of women would relate to her. 

Did you meticulously plan your novel or are you a panster?
I'm very much a panster. I know where I want to begin and I know where I need things to end. But other than that, the characters come to life and they do the talking for me.

How much research did you have to do for it?
I had to do a lot of research into WW2, into rationing and how the young men were called up. I also looked into the men who didn't get called up, the men who worked in the mines, bringing us fuel. I also looked into how women lived in 1942. Emily Ennis was the daughter of a rich man and even though she was living in 1942, her life was protected by hierarchy. She didn't do what most women of that era did and I purposely wrote her as being a little more Victorian, because of all this.

What was the hardest part of writing it?
Rejection. You know it's coming from most avenues, but nothing prepares you for the first one. It's awful, you hate your writing, you hate all the hours you've devoted to it and of course, you're never going to write again. The writing process is like being on a giant rollercoaster without a track. One minute you’re up, the next you’re down.
It takes some doing, but… like all authors, I pick myself up and I start again.

Any advice for someone starting to write their first novel?

Keep writing and don't stop. Write every day and join the Romantic Novelist Association, they really are the best..!! x

Lynda, is a wife, step-mother and grandmother, she grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire.

Her own life story, along with varied career choices, helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit & Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for over 20 years.

Link to Choc Lit

Link to Amazon